Ashlee Piper is former political strategist turned nationally-recognized eco-lifestyle expert, TV personality, and journalist. She is a regular guest and cohost on a variety of national and local TV shows including FOX, CBS, NBC, ABC, The LiveWell Network, and others. She also writes for online and print publications, such as Women’s Health, Refinery29, MindBodyGreen, VegNews, The Chalkboard, and Reader’s Digest on all things planet-friendly and chic (none of that crunchy stuff here!). Ms. Piper holds a BA from Brown University, an MSW from the University of Oxford, UK, and a Degree in Holistic Health from IIN/Columbia University. Lucky for us, this super smart and admirable lady took the time to sit down with us and discuss some of GUNAS’ favorite issues (many of which hold significance to Ashlee as well).
Your website has received a LOT of recognition from the press and general public. How did you turn your site into a successful vegan-orientated operation?
Well, that’s really kind of you to say. I actually call myself a “bad blogger” because I never wanted to be a blogger. Rather, I wanted to bring the eco-friendly, vegan message to the mainstream public via TV and print. Once I started doing that, the site kind of fell by the wayside. I think being on TV helps with exposure generally. To date, I’ve done about 104 TV segments around the country, and I love receiving messages from folks who’ve seen segments and say things like, “Oh man! I had no idea animal testing was a thing. I bought a lipstick yesterday and looked for the Leaping Bunny.” That makes me feel so good. As for my writing being more prominent in the vegan community, I think it’s because, from the very beginning, I’ve aimed to foster good relationships with and bring exposure to vegan brands. Early on, almost 3 years ago when I was first starting to do television, I was bringing Vaute, Djuna Shay, Nicora Shoes, Hipsters for Sisters, Jill Milan, GUNAS and other like-minded (and fabulous) brands on television before anyone else was. I did and do that because I really believe in the availability and exposure of ethically vegan brands. And building those friendships with makers has helped me get extremely fluent in the eco and vegan fashion and beauty landscape. With everything I do, I try to show that veganism is a fun, not fringy or judgey lifestyle. That’s helped me land television segments and endeared people to the message.
Definitely! Speaking of cruelty free brands, there have been so many animal-free labels, sites & resources popping up lately. Given this movement, how do you envision the next year going?
Oh, I think it’s just going to keep getting better and better. What used to be a painfully sparse marketplace is now teeming with vegan beauty and fashion options, from small-batch makers to big box stores touting entire “vegan” and “cruelty-free” sections. I see there being more advancements in vegan work wear, menswear, outerwear, and fancier dress (including shoes) and I see more cosmetics companies eschewing animal testing and ingredients for good. We are a legitimate, money-making, money-spending demographic and retailers and manufacturers are starting to take notice. I find that incredibly exciting, both because it means fewer animals suffer (and hopefully less environmental degradation and worker exploitation) and because the hunt for great fashion and beauty options becomes more fun and less frustrating for all.
Which of these brands do you find particularity inspiring?
Man, there are seriously SO MANY incredible brands (points to GUNAS) that are doing big things despite the naysayers and challenges. I really love the brand UMASAN out of Germany. They’re making huge strides with their presence in mainstream Fashion Weeks and their commitment not just to vegan clothing, but also eco-friendly, people-forward, and body positive fashion that suits more minimalist lifestyles. I love marketplaces like Bead & Reel and Unicorn Goods that are bringing so many ethical vegan options under one URL, and I’m always obsessed with beauty boxes like Petit Vour, which have pierced the veil between the cruelty-free and mainstream beauty markets.
While enlightening, veganism can often be an internal challenge; how to dress, what chains to avoid, etc. In your opinion, what are the best things people can do to change?
There’s no monolithic path someone can take, and I am a big believer in seemingly small, incremental changes making a big impact. That said, if we’re talking about food, the single most beneficial step one can take (purely from an animal suffering standpoint) is to stop eating chicken and fish, and phase out other meat, dairy and animal ingredients soon thereafter. I mean, think about it – a single chicken wing = 1 chicken. That’s a lot of lives someone can spare when they sit down to have a meal.
If we’re talking about fashion and beauty (and home, too!), I think the most powerful thing one can do (and it’s not a solely vegan virtue) is to embrace minimalism. The philosophy of having less and buying better quality isn’t just good for the earth, people, and animals – it’s good for the soul. Having a pared down wardrobe, beauty routine and other aspects of your life eliminates the need for fast fashion and focuses on quality products from ethical makers. So, instead of having 12 pairs of sweatshop made leather shoes, you invest in 2 pairs of eco-vegan kicks handcrafted fairly by an artisan making a livable wage. Sure, the cost of the 2 pair may be a bit more than a fast fashion pair, but you’ll have them longer, and the story behind them is one of triumph and fairness, as opposed to the usual tale of suffering and exploitation. I truly believe that once people embrace the beauty of less as the gateway to true abundance in all things, there will be a significantly reduced burden on animals and the planet (and each other).
Last but not least, what is your favorite GUNAS piece?
Without a doubt, it’s the Rebel Clutch. That thing has been putting stars in my eyes for years and when I finally got my hot little hands on it – man, I didn’t want to let go. The tough, yet elegant beading and ideal size means it goes well with everything, from a gala dress (believe I rocked my Rebel at the recent Mercy for Animals Gala in Los Angeles in September) to jeans and a t-shirt. It’s such a perfect piece.
One of the best things we’ve learned about Ashlee is not only the motivation her words provide, but her genuine belief a cruelty world is possible-and that it all starts with us. Her actions and activism make that beautifully clear. We’re so proud to call her a #GUNASGIRL!